(Letter to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren after the Senate yesterday silenced her as she read a letter from Coretta Scott King regarding Senator Jeff Sessions and his confirmation for Attorney General.)
Dear Senator Warren:
I am so moved by your experience on the Senate floor yesterday while reading Mrs. Scott King’s words.
Frankly, each morning I wake up more disgusted than the day before at the way our government proceeds with business, bullying citizens of all ranks, shuttering programs that have benefitted so many citizens, flagrantly chastising individuals, corporations, religious and ethnic groups, the press, and anyone courageous enough to disagree and voice concern. That you were silenced on the Senate floor yesterday should not surprise me, but it does, because I choose to wake up each day not accepting this prevailing attitude, behavior and political climate as status quo.
I have taught my children that one voice matters, and that it is their responsibility to work for what is right, and to do so honorably. I am only one voice. But like you, I will not be silenced.
Senator Warren, you are an inspiration.
February 8, 2017
The election results have cut to the quick. After a full week of protests from a stunned half-a-country, both the President and President Elect have called for calm. Peace rallies are cropping up now – “hug-ins,” and a “hand-holding” of hundreds around a lake, and a student/teacher-organized multi-hour march through a town to promote an accord.
At the same time, political, environmental and human rights groups are begging us to rally behind the issues and work together to safeguard against dismantling reforms that have been made.
I get it. We can’t continue this way. I don’t condone the violence, the fires, the blocking freeways and highways. But my personal anger rages. And while I am not a person of color or of a religion or creed that might attract negative behavior, I continue to react. I do not like the person I see in the mirror, sometimes spitting-mad, then depressed, unsmiling, stunned, and always terribly irritated by every minor inconvenience.
And worst of all, Humor, that irreverent and goofy thing that dwells within me, so close to my surface, suddenly packed up and left Tuesday night sometime between the cup of tea I made to steady my nerves and going to bed. It left, and it took Sleep with it.
Every night for eight nights I think long and hard about what has happened, and attempt to figure out why I hurt so much. There’s no denying it; I feel like I’ve been wronged. The hurting won’t stop.
I don’t react against the millions who voted this way, including relatives and friends. In the end, somebody wins and somebody loses. I know how good it feels to have a candidate I’ve supported win; it’s great, isn’t it? I don’t want to take this celebratory feeling away from anyone. So it’s not just that my candidate lost.
Last night, somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m., it hit me. Of course, I have been dismayed by the public lack of restraint the now President Elect has demonstrated for the past 17 months, and I hope that most of us, at the very least, has shaken our heads at the charged rhetoric. My urban neighborhood and my entire city is an ethnically-diverse region. I live in Silicon Valley. The entire San Francisco Bay Area is diverse. We chose, and continue to choose to live in an area that my grandmother, who was born in 1900, would have called “a regular League of Nations.”
When I walk my dog down the main artery, every day I breathe in the wonderful aromas of spices from multiple restaurants featuring world cuisines. The local movie theater is a hub for Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada and English movies. The shops and businesses are owned by neighbors who hail, or whose families once hailed from countries around the globe.
My kids’ grammar school was another “League of Nations” with 26 languages spoken by families. Some girls in my kids’ classes wore headscarves. Sometimes parents, who had just moved to the area and who had studied English in their native countries, volunteered in classes for weeks and months, translating for their own young children who, just starting school, had not yet had the opportunity to study English. Other language-rich volunteers within the community helped many a student feel comfortable with English. In fact, the school district, our school and parents’ organization held numerous tutorials with translations provided for non-English speaking parents so they could learn how to navigate their way through the school system. One thing was certain; we were in this together.
Along with the regular curriculum, all the kids studied music and technology. They learned about holidays throughout the globe and they sampled foods from across the continents. On special occasions they shared traditional dress. They played with each other and did homework and projects together and it never occurred to these kids that there was anything different or odd or unusual about any of this.
I’ve dedicated much of my time volunteering in and for schools. We, our family, chose to live here, and we embraced the diversity. And as with the other families around us, our children, all our children, would grow up together, study together and someday work in a global economy together where every ounce of understanding among individuals and nations could only be a benefit. This is Silicon Valley. A good chunk of success here is from working together. As school volunteers, we not only helped in class, we ran the cultural assembly programs, we engaged the kids in the arts, we wrote the newsletters, helped with the field trips, mentored, wrote about the successes of the school in a state and national program, ran the fund-raisers, made the copies, decorated the classrooms and the cupcakes, served on school site committees and represented the school at district-wide parent committees, and told kids that we really did live at school. The staff welcomed us warmly. We were partners. As parent volunteers, the more engaged we became, the more we realized that our own children’s success was in every way rooted in the success of all the children at school, no matter what learning disability they had or which language they spoke. We worked hard to counter bullying, embracing research-based practices that the entire school district supported. Parent engagement programs taught us how to empower youth, how to provide kids with assets that would enable them to meet challenges head-on. We adopted sound, proven techniques that highlighted a positive school climate.
And so here is my personal epiphany, figured out in the wee hours of the morning last night. For the past 17 months, we have heard nothing but bullying and calling out groups originating from different places on the globe, belittling people – people who have handicaps, people who speak different languages, people who worship in non-Christian places, women, blacks, gays, people who dress differently, and the list goes on. I will be the first to tell you that there are great challenges in our society, but after spending what I am proud to call my life’s work, the President-Elect has not only spit upon my values and those of my colleagues and neighbors and friends and residents of a beautiful place we call home, stomping on years of thoughtful, loving and hard work to help our kids, all our kids thrive, he has made it fashionable to seek-out with aggression and malice any and all who may be seen as a threat, any who look or act differently based on some perceived difference, forgetting that so much of the greatness of our country was built on the backs of immigrants who were also persecuted.
As a result, I feel shame that this is the course our nation has chosen. Change is fine. Bring it on. But let’s be darned certain that the change we make yields real progress. Making our country less inclusive of diversity is change, but just the worst kind. Progress is not made by bullying and threatening violence and committing violent acts. Nor is it made by yelling abusive comments at others. And we certainly do not make any kind of progress when children are afraid to go to school because they are told that they will be arrested and deported as soon as they open their door. One young child packed a suitcase on election night. A student, a young woman at a local university, was assaulted because she wears a hijab; she was nearly choked. There have been many, many reports of racial slurs, violence, and assaults. How do hate crimes enact positive change?
So I too, now, call for some semblance of order. Yes, from damaging riots, but also from people who think it is within their rights to persecute another for how he or she looks, acts, thinks, prays, or speaks. I chose to work for years, doing my part as a parent and citizen, to ensure that my kids and their classmates and friends were safe, well-adjusted and ready to succeed in a world that is, communication-wise, without borders. And in 17 short months, the gold-standard has been reduced to nothing more than a barnyard brawl.
And that’s why I’m not sleeping.
November 16, 2016
People are coming out of the woodwork to campaign for her. There’s a movement happening in my neighborhood, and it’s huge. Well, okay, it’s pretty big. If I didn’t know better, I’d think we all were cast in one of those feel-good Hallmark movies.
It’s real and the energy is palpable, and it’s wonderful.
Let’s back it up a bit. In this interminable campaign, we’ve slung garbage at ourselves and the world, and the rank air will linger. We’ve perfected “going negative” to a science. Candidates must attack in order to be taken seriously. Like it or not, it’s now part of our culture. Just watch TV; how many shows feature a group of people sitting around a table, all talking at the same time? Listening is out. We don’t debate; we point fingers in faces and yell louder. And we talk crude. Crude is in.
So now we’re exhausted. Families have turned against families, friends against friends. People are “unfriending” loved ones because they don’t see eye to eye and have lost respect for each other. There have been arguments, many arguments. It may have taken years to get everyone in the family on Facebook, but now, with one single click, we’ve cut our ties. Thanksgiving is at hand, but we’ve pared down our guest lists because we couldn’t possibly sit at the table with people who are enemies. How could we have been so blind? We were friends for ages!
And then we come back to a breath of fresh air: the local election in my neighborhood. There’s a woman running for City Council in my district. She’s amazing. Everybody here knows her. Everybody loves her. She’s the voice of optimism and know-how and tenacity and real caring. She has been working and volunteering for neighbors and kids for two and a half decades. She gets things done and really helps people. She shares her successes. And here’s something; she listens. She listens hard to what people are saying; instead of just getting the gist of the idea and forming a quick response as to why it’s never gonna work, she’s listening.
Helen could have gone negative. She had opportunities. Heck, there was a negative campaign against her. But in a way that is purely Helen Chapman, our neighborhood candidate put the facts out there. She quickly proved every word against her was false, posted the substantiating documents on her website immediately so the voters could see them for themselves, and then went on campaigning, fighting the good fight.
There is an impressive list of people and groups endorsing Helen Chapman and there’s a good reason for this. She’s the real deal. But more than that, this groundswell of neighbors coming out of the woodwork to support her, to phone bank and make assembly lines of literature and maps and to put flyers on doorknobs and to walk precincts introducing voters to the person we know to be so perfect for this job – this has been the greatest. There are family members helping and retired folks and moms and kids and old friends and new and former colleagues, and neighbors just wanting to help and people who have heard about her and who want to lend a hand. Volunteers who don’t even live in the district are participating in this positive campaign because it’s obvious that to this candidate, and pervasive throughout her campaign, people matter.
Helen is a role model. We are overjoyed that in our neck of the woods, so many of us who are coming out of the woodwork can focus on those old-fashioned Hallmark qualities of good character and honesty and a strong work ethic and positive energy and enthusiasm and a can-do spirit and successes for people, not on the backs of them. All of it. Helen has built strong relationships with the community; she’s a fabulous resource. She’s smart. Her word means something. She gets involved and stays with it for the long-run. She supports local businesses, and is adamant about using them to create her campaign materials. She’ll buy breakfast for her walkers – again supporting local businesses. Helen says that her number one special interest is her constituents, the residents of District 6 in San Jose, CA, and their concerns.
While making phone calls early in the campaign, I was asked to find out the areas of interest of voters of District 6. So when I made calls, first I introduced them to Helen, and then I asked the voters which issues specifically concerned them, their families and neighbors. Callers did not hang up on me. On the contrary, they were excited to talk to me and several people told me they were stunned; no one had ever asked them what was important to them and on their minds.
So as I leave my own woodwork today to spend the afternoon campaigning, I am enjoying that Hallmark experience of goodness. Yes, it’s a close election. Yes, we are working hard. Rancor among families and voters is pervasive nationally, but with this one race, where the candidate’s campaign slogan is “Working Together,” we embrace individuals. No unfriending here. Oh yeah, and the air in this neighborhood, anyway, is clear and sweet.
November 6, 2016
The Democratic National Committee has forgotten that I asked not to receive so many emails, but this one intrigued me. It was going to give me my personal “Official Democratic Record.”
Wow! The DNC had compiled a list of issues I’ve addressed, either by signing petitions or by writing letters based on their emails to me? That’s impressive. They’ve searched data bases or used computer modeling to develop a, … well, this word has gotten a bad rap,… but “profile” of things important enough to me that I have voiced my concern? Genius! What a sophisticated tool to garner my support! Very cool.
So here it is… Drumroll Please!
“Official Democratic Record for You”
Total 2015 Donations
Okay, so I’m naïve. But thanks for the morning chuckle, DNC. I’m still not inclined to give you any cash, but you can add “Zero Funding Donor” to my list of political issues for my “Official Democratic Record.”
September 28, 2015
Dear Democratic Leader Pelosi:
I write to you here because as I do not live in your Congressional district, my attempt to email you failed.
Congratulations on your election to remain the House Democratic leader.
Having said this, please know that I am removing myself from this email list, sadly. I am personally surprised at my fatigue in all things politics, especially now, after this month’s mid-term elections, when my Party’s numbers in Congressional representation have been reduced so significantly. And while I want and need to stay informed, I feel that there is a constant free-for-all in the emails that are sent to me. I am done with the emails that sensationalize everything, that always request a contribution, and that appear to divide the gap between the two parties even further.
I received the news that you have been re-elected as House Democratic leader, and was asked for a contribution. I am always asked for a contribution, no matter what the news. I appreciate your hard work and tenacity, but, (and yes, there is a “but” here) must all emails include a request for money? Perhaps an announcement, and a call to rally would have been sufficient, and not tipped me over the edge. I am unsubscribing to these emails.
Here’s why I am tired — through this constant barrage of emails, the appearance is that elected representatives from both houses cannot do their jobs without airing dirty laundry, without constantly asking for money, without inane and sensational “Subject” lines that are at best humorous, and at worst, infantile and embarrassing. I am tired of reading multiple times a day that all is lost. I am also tired at the lack of respect for the offices of representing citizens; that respect has been whittled away by infighting, and also by these so-called “chummy” emails. Remember, citizens get these emails multiple times a day. Representing the people of the United States is serious business, and the behavior of elected officials as portrayed in these missives is unprofessional. This goes not only for the legislative branch, but also for the executive branch. Compound this constant campaign of ridiculous emails with the work that is not getting done in the beautiful and historic chambers in the Capitol building, and one might begin to understand why voters, well, I can only speak for myself here, why I am tired of the way business is being done today,
While something deep inside me knows that money is needed and campaign reform laws are paramount, I have been worn down to the point that I can no longer spend energy every day sorting through these missives, reading accounts of how the political parties continue to fight and how nothing is getting done, and then cringing as I am asked for and yet another contribution.
Again, I sincerely congratulate you, Congresswoman Pelosi, and I wish you all the very best. I appreciate your hard work and tenacity and service. I also hope that a sense of decorum can be re-established, that people can see that the Congress is willing no longer to use the citizenry to jump in and take sides as if this were a big sporting match where we shout each other down. I fear that we have become a laughing stock. I look forward to a day when, while entrenched in vehement disagreement, there will be some respect for each other and for the electorate.
As you prepare for a new Congress, my thoughts are with you as you attempt to negotiate policy in a profound climate of non-partisanship, and urge you to take a new tack. I also urge your party members to do the same. Who knows? Perhaps this is something to which both sides can agree.
Kathleen M. Galgano
Kathleen, Can we talk?; terrible news; read the email carefully (don’t skim); Please, don’t click delete; Absolutely urgent; DISASTROUS; The next two years are on the line; Today’s critical deadline; NEVER in US history (completely unprecedented); DEADLOCKED; Photo finish; Not an option – DON’T DELETE; All is lost; It’s going to come down to you, Kathleen; disappointed; Kathleen!; I need your help, Kathleen!; DISASTER; DEADLINE: Add your name if you live on Earth; I’m relying on you Kathleen; This is disgusting; lost cause; All is lost; We’ve lost; All Hope is Lost; Doomsday.
And to think I woke up in a good mood. These emails litter my inbox daily.
“Shoot. Again? All hope is lost… again?”
Political action groups, political parties, U.S. Representatives, Senators, even the Prez send me missives. I wrote in a previous post that the Prez and I are good buds because we are on a first name basis. Nothing’s changed there. I realize that folks sitting at their computers at home or at favorite coffee shops all over the place are being paid a pittance for these emails, and they are grasping at straws to find new sensational wording to get my attention, but really, is this necessary? Haven’t people ever read the story about the boy who cries “wolf!”? What a waste of time and resources.
Usually, my responses are about as thoughtfully crafted as the emails themselves. “Idiotic!” “Are they kidding?” “What imbeciles!” “How stupid.” “Ridiculous.” “They’re off their rockers!”
Routinely, I delete the lot of them, but once in a while I take a peek. Just last week the Prez thanked me for my help, (What help?) and I could tell he doesn’t read my blog. For the umpteenth time, if I donate money, my name will be entered into a drawing and I could meet the President. This is all routine. Here’s the part that got to me; the missive said that POTUS wants to meet my parents! I just shook my head. These people sure have their demographics wrong. I am the parent! My folks are dead. I am not a twenty-something.
“Get it together, people! If you have to send stupid emails, at least target the right group!”
I started getting these emails as I wrote to elected officials a year ago pleading with them to end the government shutdown. I wrote to everybody, and so these responses are fallout from my kitchen grassroots campaign. My letters were impassioned, yes, but they were also respectful and, I believed, well crafted. Could it be that my kitchen campaign of activism has caused a dramatically different and unexpected outcome?
While I look forward to reading the rare but newsworthy and interesting political updates, I could care less about all these “crises.” I am not giving a dime. I am not signing petitions. I am not sending hate mail. I am not reading these missives. I don’t care about them. I am rapidly losing interest in the process. Yes. I mean it!
Of course, the campaign finance rules need to be changed. Yes, real work needs to be conducted on Capitol Hill. But does everyone really need to air their dirty laundry every single second? Can’t elected officials do one thing without calling everybody they know? Sure, there are days that go from bad to worse to really downright lousy, but is it every single day? We vote. We elect officials to do the business of our country. So just do it already, and stop bothering me with the petty stuff.
The sheer number of these nonsensical emails barraging my inbox for a year now is making me numb – well, emails, sound bites, news, all of it reflecting the reality that nothing gets done anymore. But my inbox is my personal domain and I don’t need groups and individuals harassing me every second of the day. I can feel my drive for activism being shut down.
Now that’s a crisis.
October 15, 2014
Last fall, when the government shut down, I blogged daily and submitted my Kathy’s Musings pieces, and many more formal letters in email form, to elected officials on both sides of the aisle. These missives were respectful in nature and tone, even when I pleaded with officials to end the nightmare. While I knew that my grassroots kitchen campaign, one citizen’s efforts to halt the shutdown, was most assuredly in vain, I figured it might be worth the effort if only to demonstrate that a tone of civility, a spirit of cooperation, and a sense of decorum are all still possible.
In due course, I received the standard “form” reply emails from the officials, thanking me for my interest, and would I like to receive updates from their offices? While it would have been nice to have spoken with staff members during the shutdown, the sheer numbers of furloughed staff, and the fact that emails rarely receive responses within a day or two, made it understandable that these replies came long after the shutdown ended. But sure — Why not? I could keep up with political news, and so I clicked on the “Yes” button to receive legislators’ updates. During the shutdown, I did come by one most appreciated response. One evening I was cooking dinner, and answered the house phone. Did I want to listen-in to a live Q and A session/ townhall meeting in progress with the Representative? This was the same Rep I had written to earlier, describing a specific heart-wrenching, shutdown-related situation in her district, which neighbors mine. I wasn’t able to ask any questions, but I welcomed hearing a live voice.
When all was said and done, my letters and hard work were not the catalyst for ending the shutdown, but I had achieved my goal. I had communicated my ideas, sentiments, facts, and accounts of how the shutdown wreaked havoc on real people to readers in the U.S. and countries around the globe. In my letter-writing campaign to representatives and senators, I maintained a sense of decorum. I never engaged in name calling even though the press was having a field day describing the jabs emanating from Capitol Hill. And, I refused to give up on my quest, even though I was tempted. I urged readers to join me in my campaign to contact legislators, and many did; political involvement and activism is always a good thing. In addition, I was happy to receive email replies from the reporters I contacted, having informed them that I had quoted their information and facts in my blog pieces. I received advice from the people I connected with, and I especially enjoyed talking to folks at the Los Alamos National Bank, a fiscal organization I highlighted for coming up with a way to help furloughed citizens.
And since the shutdown, I have been receiving emails from many Congress members. I like being informed, and I don’t have to agree with all the politics to keep up with the news. However, there is fallout from my kitchen campaign, and I should have anticipated it. Every single day I receive email after email from political organizations and elected members requesting I join them in either signing a petition or contacting someone to fight a particular cause, or that I donate money, or both.
Okay. Since I’ve put myself on lists, these emails are to be expected. True, but I’m fairly certain I haven’t hit this many “Yes” buttons. I delete a lot of these missives without opening them because I’ve come to recognize the authors’ names and their respective political groups. I understand how campaigns work; I, too, asked my readers to barrage their reps’ inboxes during the shutdown. I describe these daily email campaigns this way: Hit ‘em often, Hit ‘em hard!, and Act Now! — We’re on the brink of disaster! And somehow, it seems that we are always on the brink of one kind of disaster or another.
These campaigns are successful. I know because at some point I receive emails thanking me for my contributions, even though I haven’t donated a dime. The typical requests don’t ask for a lot; usually, it’s a request for three bucks, or five, but sometimes it’s for more. When there are fiscal deadlines, I get tons of emails, and I truly wish the authors would adhere to some semblance of decorum. I bristle a bit when I receive an email from the President addressed to “Hey, Kathleen.” In the back of my head I can hear my childhood friend’s grandmother saying, all those years ago, “Do not address me as ‘Hey.’ I do not live in a barn.” And the President frequently signs these personal emails as “Barack.”
Leading up to midnight, June 30, 2014, my Inbox was filled with many, many passionate pleas for donations. Some of them were going to be triple-matched; political campaigns must have learned something from public broadcasting membership drives, with the announcer chanting, “Call in the next five minutes and your donation will be matched!” Well, these Congressional campaigns needed, demanded, implored me for contributions. The subject lines of some of these emails read: “We keep emailing,” “Another Email?! (DON’T SKIP),” and “Things are getting a little loopy around here.” (The “loopy” email shows a video of a bunny running around a person’s legs. That was a strange one.) In one series of requests, I could have won a chance to meet the President. These came along with the “We need you,” and “LAST CHANCE,” and “We’re Running Out Of Time,” plus the personal plea, “Don’t sit this one out, Kathleen.” Then there were the subject lines that were all doom and gloom: “TRAGIC Conclusion,” and “Devastating Losses.” The one that really got me was the “All Hope is Lost” email.
Tell me, if all hope is lost, why the heck would I donate a dime? The definition of a “lost cause” is, well, a lost cause! Then there’s the drama. If a campaign purportedly is being outspent by $9 million, the amount is written in the emails like this: “$9,000,000.00.” I’m guessing the author was hoping people might read this as $900 million instead of $9 million? Well, if that’s the case, would a potential donor actually think a three dollar contribution would make a difference? Hmmm, well, maybe. After all, I was hoping my miniscule kitchen campaign might make a difference.
So here’s what I’ve learned in a nutshell: 1) The President and I are good buddies; 2) I have so impressed political campaign organizers that they believe I can save the day, every day, and that I’m personally able to make contributions, large and small, multiple times a day, every day; 3) It’s okay to dump decorum, and 4) It’s also okay to barrage legislators’ inboxes with requests for everything, all the time.
Lessons learned. Got it!
July 7, 2014
Shame on you, 113th Congress! Shame on you.
Shame on you, 113th Congress, for wasting time and resources, and for accomplishing so little. Shame on you, 113th Congress, for concluding a legislative session without a timely plan for enacting a federal budget. Shame on you, 113th Congress, for projecting an attitude of not caring that the government may shut down, and for not caring that your inactions once again effect investments nationally and globally.
Shame on you, 113th Congress, for shortsighted closed-mindedness. Shame on you, 113th Congress, for wasting time and resources through stalemates and blame. Shame on you, 113th Congress, for the beyond-regrettable establishment of a new non-standard for our youth, for fledgling representational governments, and for us all. Shame on you, 113th Congress, for proudly choosing not to compromise.
Shame on you, 113th Congress, for demonstrating first-hand to every single student who is fortunate enough to secure a coveted ticket for a seat in the balcony gallery, that as a representational body, you cannot work effectively with people who pose differing views, and you cannot effect change.
I am ashamed of the role-models we have become.